Michael McGraw and the Untamed Sea
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Michael McGraw and the Untamed Sea

San Diego, California, United States | SELF

San Diego, California, United States | SELF
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"Worth a listen"

San Diego's Michael McGraw has a new CD out that recalls the folk-rock crossover acts of the late 1960s through early 1980s, artists like Cat Stevens, Al Stewart or even fellow San Diegan Stephen Bishop. The structure of his songs is drawn mostly from folk music, but the full band and electric instruments give it a rock feel – as do the complex, layered arrangements.

McGraw's tenor singing voice bears a slight resemblance to Stevens', and if he hasn't yet written any songs on a par with the classics tunes that came from Stevens' pen, the first two songs on this EP are hypnotic little pop-rock gems. "Carousel" has as lovely a melody as you'll ever hear and nice wordplay on the lyrics. The opening track, "Alittle Better Uniform," is equally hook-laden, and would have fit comfortably in nearly any week's American Top 40 from the 1970s.

The other four songs aren't quite as memorable, but on the strength of those first two songs, this is a release that makes McGraw a songwriter and performer to pay attention to. - North County Times


"Hear This!"

Review found on pages 38. - Revolt In Style Magazine


"Michael McGraw Embraces His Roots"

“I’m an East Coaster,” says Pennsylvania native Michael McGraw at the Alibi in Hillcrest. “I have a little moodiness and I’ve come to embrace it. The music we’re making now is true to that.”

McGraw moved to San Diego in the summer of 1999 to pursue a music career, but it wasn’t until 2008 that he started playing out with his current line up of Chris Decatur (drums/vox) and Mark Lane (bass). Alternately reminiscent of Cat Stevens, Ryan Adams, the Wallflowers, Elliot Smith, and the more driving aspects of Belle and Sebastian, the trio released their Hillside EP in 2009 followed by the recent You Don’t Know Nothin’ and That’s What Makes it Alright EP.

“I feel like this album really is the start of making music which really sounds like who I am as a person,” McGraw says. The five-song EP, released digitally late May, was mastered by Mike Kamoo at Earthling Studios. The cover depicts McGraw’s dog, the inspiration for the album’s title.

“I have a very Brit rock background, so everything has a lot of fuzzy guitar,” says McGraw, a freelance illustrator who makes show posters for his and touring bands. “I tend to find a universal theme for each song. Nothing too blatant. I take a very Rolling Stones approach to songwriting, which is phonetic rather than going in with a preconceived theme. People have always told me my songs are very anthemic, like U2, which isn’t intentional. I try to write very straight songs. I don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If I take the songs we play now and make them acoustic, it sounds Americana.”

McGraw plans to tour this fall after getting married and hopes to have another EP out in time for the road.

“My 20s were all about questioning what it all means,” McGraw says. “Now in my 30s, I realize I don’t have to have all the answers.” - SD Reader


Discography

You Don't Know Nothin' and That's What Makes It Alright EP - 2011

Place Where I Begin - Single - 2010

the Hillside EP - 2009

Played in band True Crime Authors (2005 - 2008)

Garnet Session 7" - 2005

I See Why You're Bored EP - 2003

Photos

Bio

This isn’t Michael’s first rodeo. In fact, he’s been making music in one form or another for the last decade. Influenced heavily by the lo-fi late 1990’s, Michael started playing acoustically in college. After moving to San Diego in the early 2000’s, Michael honed his skills of songwriting and performing in San Diego bands the Yellow Miseries and True Crime Authors. In 2005, Michael left the comforts of band life for a solo career where he could have the freedom to create music without compromising ideas.
In 2009, after countless home demos, Michael brought in some musicians to help flesh out some of his favorite tracks. These tracks would make up the 6 songs found on his well received 2009 debut recording the HILLSIDE EP. Compared to acts like Tom Petty, Kings of Leon and Pete Yorn, the HILLSIDE EP had a polished feel, full of rich harmonies and growling guitars…a trademark of Michael’s Brit Rock influence. Woven inside the overdrivin guitars were the familiar singer / songwriter aesthetics found in artists like Elliott Smith or Ryan Adams, artists Michael had grown to love in recent years. Over the course of 2009/2010 Michael settled on a live lineup consisting of musicians Mark Lane (bass) and Chris Decatur (drums, vox), both featured on the HILLSIDE EP.The three piece played and toured around southern California and their dynamic live presence has greatly influenced Michael’s continued writing.
Now in 2011, Michael and friends have reemerged with a blistering 5 song EP entitled “YOU DON’T KNOW NOTHIN’ AND THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT ALRIGHT EP”. Where the HILLSIDE EP followed a polished/ studio approach, the new record attempts to get back to Michael’s late 90’s roots, harnessing the energy and evolution of this 3 piece band. This record still has the same rich harmonies and catchy, anthemic choruses, only this time they come with a bit more bite.
Recorded in alittle over two weeks in Michael’s home studio, the songs found on the new EP were tracked with limited takes and lo fi mic setups. They attempt to showcase a moodiness and attitude, not apologize for it. After recording, the tracks were handed over to engineer Mike Kamoo at Earthling Records for final mix and master. The results are lush vocals with more growl and hiss, unapologetic guitars and a rhythm section that holds it all together.